By Leenjiso Horo
April 15, 2018
The 19th-century Russian historian Vasily Klyuchevsky famously wrote: “History doesn’t teach anything, but greatly punishes one for not learning its lessons.” This quotation reminds us, our failure to learn lessons of our tragic history of a century ago, the tragic history that made Oromo people the victim of Abyssinia, ending in the conquest of Oromiyaa and putting the nation in disgrace and humiliation in which we found ourselves today. This article highlights lessons of past and present the tragic history of genocide to be learned and indicates a way forward.
Genocide has been perpetrated against the Oromo people since the invasion, conquest, occupation, and colonization of Oromiyaa to-date. Despite this, only a few nationals are using the authentic meaning of the term genocide. Some use it loosely, and others totally shun away to use it altogether. The purpose of this article is to bring to its readers the authentic meaning of genocide and so to show that by any standard definition, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) policies and practices against the Oromo people fit the definition of genocide. History has shown time and again that genocide has been used to reduce the majority to a minority.
According to Raphael Lemkin, the man who coined the term genocide: “Genocide has two phases: one, the destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor.” Hence, the accepted legal definition of genocide is the intent to destroy a targeted group in whole or in part. It is a state policy. Genocide is not only a mass massacre, or destruction of a nation; it is the eradication of the people. Simply put, the term genocide is used to describe a deliberate and systematic wholesale physical extermination of an entire people or nation. Hence, genocide is legally defined by the UN as“any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”:
- Killing members of the group;
- causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Here what has to be understood from the definitions is that the victims of genocide are deliberately targeted by reason of their membership of one of the four groups named above.
In the vocabulary of genocide, there are four parties:
- The Perpetrators;
- The victims;
- The complicity in genocide;
- The bystanders to genocide
Here, perpetrators are the entities that initiate, plan, prepare, facilitate and enforce, execute, or carry out acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes. The victims are those groups that are targeted by the perpetrators.
The complicity in genocide is those who are accomplice, aiders, abettors, and enablers in genocide. History has shown time and again that the most sinister enemy in the national liberation struggle is the enemy within. It is invisible threat hiding inside the community of people or nation or hides inside an organization. It helps the external enemy. The external enemy comes to occupy, kill, destroy, damage, and steal land and resources of the country.
Bystanders are those who knowingly allow harm to occur and so they are as guilty as the perpetrators. As genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing are being committed against the Oromo people, doing nothing in fighting the perpetrator and instead remain a silent bystander. To choose to be a bystander is tantamount to be an accomplice. As the renowned Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel stated: “What hurts the victim most are not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.” Quite simply, it goes without saying that if the citizens of a nation continue to conduct business as usual while genocide, the crime against humanity and ethnic cleansing are being committed against their people, that citizens share complicity in the crimes. Here, what must be clear is that without complicit and bystanders, genocide cannot be undertaken. If undertaken it will fail. Question is as to what it means to be a bystander. A bystander is one who knowingly allows genocide to occur. That is, a person who chooses to close his/her mind, hears nothing, and say nothing and to does nothing but silently engage in business with the perpetrator of genocide for gain. Such person is a guilt of willful complicit in the evil committed. For instance, as the TPLF and its proxy-the OPDO, evict the Oromo people from their lands, farmlands, and homes a person who goes to Oromiyaa from overseas and grab lands or property for free, or buy it, own it or sell it is guilty of complicity in crimes of genocide against the Oromo people. It is no secret that since the last twenty-six years, these pirates of profit flooding Oromiyaa from across the globe to take Oromo lands and properties from TPLF and its proxy OPDO in such actions as the TPLF commits genocide against their people. The reason is simple, such action qualifies this person as a perpetrator in action that facilitates genocide in two ways. On one hand, he/she helps perpetrator to finance or subsidize its war campaign of genocide and on the other, he/she encourages the enemy to evict more people.
Other vocabularies are intent, dehumanization, and action. That is, genocidal intent to commit genocide. Intent alone cannot be defined as genocide but it has to be followed with dehumanization and then with action-genocidal action. Without intent, killings cannot be categorized as genocide. That is only intentional or planned the massive destruction of human lives should be called genocide.
Now, here is a question, Can there be genocide without the intent to Commit Genocide? The answer to this question is no.There should be an intent. For instance, acts of destruction of a group would not be classified as Genocide unless the intent to destroy the group existed. Hence, the destruction of a group without intent would not fall under the legal definition of genocide. Without intent killings of civilians is categorized crime against humanity. Crime against humanity is the destruction of civilians while genocide is the destruction of a group. For the destruction of a group to be a genocide, the intent must exist and action has to be taken. This means genocidal intent has to be accompanied with genocidal action. So one needs to prove the perpetrators' genocidal intent exist.
The next question is as to how to prove the perpetrators intent to commit genocide. It is easy to find out. The evidence of perpetrators’ intent to commit crimes of genocide can be found from spoken words of perpetrators as well as from perpetrators publications.
The TPLF is a perpetrator of genocide. Its intent to commit genocide against the Oromo people can be found from the statement made by the Meles Zenawi and from the publication of the TPLF-Hizbaawi Adera. The first is PM Meles Zenawi’s spoken words: “The majority can be made a minority” in reference to Oromo people. This is the official formal policy of the Tigrayan led state policy of exterminating of the Oromo population in order to grab their land and economic resources. This is a stated purpose to exterminate the Oromo, by whatever means necessary and available, in order to reduce it to a minority. The second is the publication of the declaration of intent in the TPLF’s official party journal, HIZBAAWI ADERA, December 1996. It reads as follow:
"In order to have the lasting solution to our problem, we have to break narrow nationalists in Oromia. We have to defeat narrow nationalism to the bitter end to smash it in a very decisive manner. We have to fight the higher intellectual and bourgeoisie classes in a very extensive and resolute manner. The standard bearers of narrow nationalism are educated elite and the bourgeoisie. We must be in a position to eradicate all narrow nationalists.”
Here, it is clear that this is the plan for the selective destruction of the members of Oromo socio-economic elites-political leaders, military officers, businesspeople, religious leaders, cultural and intellectual figures and the youths. In the nutshell, this is TPLF’s Oromo extermination blueprint. It is one of the many institutionalized policies primarily instrumented against the entire Oromo population. The above citations are pieces of evidence of the Tigrayan regime’s special genocidal intent of complete or partial destruction of the Oromo people. Now, having shown evidence of the existence of TPLF’s genocidal intent against the Oromo people, it is time to look at its genocidal action. As it is stated above, intent alone is not enough, a perpetrator has to have a mean to take action. In order to move beyond intent into action that is into the destruction of a group. The perpetrator has to have an organization, unity, and centralized leadership and ammunition.
Moving Beyond intent into action
Genocide is only committed once the perpetrator moves beyond intent into action. That is intent has to be translated into action. It is then and only then genocide is said to have been committed. Genocide is as old as history. And so history has seen its share of genocides, wars, death, failures, successes, heroes and heroines. “The word is new,” Professor Leo Kuper of UCLA wrote, “the crime is ancient.” He traces the latter as far back as to “The Athenian destruction of Melon in 416 BC” and “Roman’s obliteration of Carthage, men, women, and children in 146 BC.” Hence, the first genocide in history was told to be the Athenian destruction of Melos and Roman obliteration of Carthage in 146 BC and etc. As its intent, Rome declared that “Carthage must be destroyed” and then followed with action and so destroyed it. However, genocide has been widely committed with the conquest and colonization from the 15thcentury to present day. Throughout history, both European and non-European empires and imperial nation-states committed genocide against occupied people. Examples of non-Europeans that committed genocide are Mongol Empire, Ottoman Empire/Turkey, Khmer Rouge, Hutu, and etc.
Throughout history, genocide has been committed both by a majority and minority national groups. It has become a means to reduce a majority national group into a minority when committed by a minority or to totally annihilate a minority when committed by a majority. Examples of majority nations reduced to minorities are far too numerous to detail here and a relative handful will, therefore, have to suffice to make the point. To begin with, genocide was fully practiced by the minority European settler colonizers in South America, Central America, Caribbean Islands, North America, New Zealand and Australia against the respective majority native populations. Professor Ward Churchill of University of Colorado has put it in this terms: “The reduction of North American Indian population from more than 12 million in 1500 to barely 237,000 in 1900.” And in hemispheric terms, he wrote: "During the four centuries spanning the time between 1492, when Christopher Columbus first set foot on the 'New World' of Caribbean beach . . . a hemispheric population estimated to have been as great as 125 million was reduced by something over 90 percent.” This means if one calculates, the remaining would be under 10 million out of 125 million. Again, the population of Espanola (today’s Haiti and the Dominican Republic) was reduced from 8 million in 1493 to 100, 000 by the year 1500. It was through genocide the European minority settler colonizers reduced the majority native people to a minority and settlers became a majority in South America, Central America, USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
The second wave of contemporary genocides came out of First World War and continuing to the present. It began with the majorities committing genocide against the minorities. For instance, there were majority nations that committed genocide against their minorities. Among them were Ottoman Empire committed genocide against the Armenian in 1915 exterminating 1.5 million out of total population of 2 million Armenians. During WWII, Nazi Germany committed genocide against its minority Jewish population exterminating 6 million. In 1994, Hutus committed genocide against the minority Tutsi killing over 800,000 to 1 million in one hundred days and etc. Genocide is still continuing unabatedly throughout the world.
The TPLF has adopted this European minority settler colonizers’ model in its extermination campaign to reduce the Oromo population to a minority. Since 1991 to date, it has been applying this model in the physical annihilation of the Oromo people. With the recent re-instituting of Command Post, the pace, scale, and intensity of committing genocide by the TPLF have far bypassed than any time before. As noted in the above paragraph, the perpetrator has to have an organization, unity, and centralized leadership and ammunition in order to carry out committing genocide. For instance, the TPLF being from a minority does not have numbers/large population but it has an organization, united, and centralized leadership and guns. This means it has the instrument of genocide: the military, Security, the police force, militia, organized and trained mercenaries, and etc. These are where its strength lies.
The next step before taking action, the perpetrator has to dehumanize, devalue, and demonize the image of the targeted group categorizing it as a subhuman creature in order to rationalize, justify, and legitimize its acts of destruction of the group. For instance, Ottoman Turkey called Armenians “infidels,” and “mercantile race”; Nazi Germany considered Jews “subhuman,” and compared them to “rats,” “lice,” and “maggots”; the Hutus referred the Tutsi as “cockroaches,” and “snakes”; the European settler colonizers referred to the American Native Indians as “vermin,” “nets,” and “wolves in the human form”. The late PM Meles Zenawi, the leader and the ideological architect of the TPLF was quoted by Ermias Legesse, the former Communication Minister of Ethiopia, to have referred to the Oromo as “flies” as a justification for murder. He was reported to have said in Amharic in reference to Oromo national in the Army in these terms: “Innanyii yezimbi sibisiboochi nechew, kawotedar wusxi abaarirachew.” Roughly translated “These are the collection of flies dismiss them from the army.” With this order, Ermias Legesse told ESAT TV that “Abbaa Duulaa Gammadaa the then Minister of Defense disarmed and dismissed 50,000 Oromo nationals from the Ethiopian National Defense Force.” This was followed by next step the disarming of the civilian population. The disarming of the Oromo population was followed by the arrests of the elites, the educated, professionals, the journalists, students, the poets, musical artists, the jurists, the lawyers, the bankers, the pharmacists and etc. This action was designed to deprive the Oromo people of leadership. Again, this was followed in 2009 with legislation categorizing the Oromo people and the OLF as a “terrorists”. All in all, the fascist TPLF has tagged the whole Oromo population as “flies,” “terrorists,” and “narrow” as a justification for genocide. Following these, Oromo massacre, persecution and expulsion from homes and land and land grab began. And the whole Oromiyaa has turned into killing and mutilating fields of Oromo for the TPLF genocidal regime. Foreign and local media and NGOs were denied access to Oromiyaa rural areas. And yet, paradoxically, it is the willingness of the OPDO to condone or even officially sponsor, the genocidist TPLF in carrying out committing all these crimes of genocide against the Oromo people and Oromiyaa. Being a neck-chained political stooge of the TPLF, OPDO has never taken the ownership of Oromiyaa and instead it has become a foot soldier for TPLF, its creator.
TPLF is guilty of at least three conditions of acts of genocide: First, “killing members of the group.” This is self-explanatory. It is the immediate physical killing; mass murder, executions and etc. One can see the dead body, corpses, skulls, skeletons, bones, mass graves; and disappearances. The massacre in Mooyyale, Hamarreessa, Sawweenaa, Bishoftu, Awaday, Ambo, Ginchi, Naqamte, Gimbii, Asasa, Shashamanne, and all in all across Oromiyaa are immediate physical killing.
Second, “causing serious bodily or mental harm to the members of the group.” The TPLF has been causing serious bodily or mental harm to the Oromo people. These include among other things such as acts of bodily or mental torture; cruel and inhumane treatment, inhumane living condition; persecution; rape and sexual violence. Serious discriminatory practices including deliberate exclusion from economic resources and social and political life. These are the bodily and mental harms the Oromo prisoners have been facing in the TPLF’s concentration camps and its widespread secret detentions across Oromiyaa.
Third, “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” Under this condition, one needs to differentiate the destruction as to “in whole or in part.” According to TPLF’s Oromo extermination, blueprint/manifesto declared in HIZBAAWI ADERA (December 1996) its first target for the physical destruction of the Oromo people is “in part”. Here its first targeted members of the Oromo people for extermination “in part” are the educated elites, the bourgeoisie and middle classes and the youths. This is a method of destruction that does not immediately kill the members of the targeted population but ultimately seeks their physical destruction. This is a method of deliberately taking away the basic necessities of life. The basic necessities of life include among other things-land. The land is life and blood of a society. It is the necessity for sustaining life. The expulsion of people from their lands, homes, and farmlands exposes them to heat, cold, and starvation, thrust, dehydration and etc. Such actions are tantamount to intentional infliction of conditions of life that results not in immediate death but in the slow death of the targeted group members. Not only these, failing to provide adequate medical care; food, water, shelter, sanitation are conditions of life. For instance, 1.2 million Oromo people who were evicted from Somalia region state are exposed to such condition of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction, in whole or in part. Again, the poisoning of drinking water of wells, rivers and lakes; destruction of the environment; cruel and inhumane treatment, inhumane living conditions would also be conditions of life that lead to a slow death of a targeted population. All in all, these are the conditions of life the TPLF has been inflicting on the Oromo people calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part.
As noted above, Raphael Lemkin was a person who pioneered the word genocide. In addition to this, he also classified the types of genocide into three based on the perpetrators intent. The three types of genocide are:
- War of extermination in antiquity and middle ages-a total or nearly total destruction of victim groups and nations
- The destruction of culture without an attempt to destroy its bearers-emerged in the modern era
- A combination of the ancient and modern forms of genocide in which some groups are selected for immediate annihilation while the others are selected for assimilation. This means selective mass murder of elites or part of the population.
All in all, this generation and the successive future generation of Oromo should remember for all times is that the conquest of Oromiyaa completed through the genocide of the Oromo people. In the last quarter of 19thcentury, in the war of conquest of Oromiyaa, Emperor Menelik II of Abyssinia reduced the Oromo population by half. In this war of conquest, the emperor had used both European made modern military weapons along with smallpox-infected blankets as a chemical weapon against Oromo. Particularly, smallpox was used as biological warfare in Arsii region of Oromiyaa. The outbreak of smallpox epidemic decimated and totally devastated Arsii. This was the reason for the defeat of Arsii at Azule. In the conquest, Menelik’s army killed women, infants, children, and elders and burned homes and villages. After the conquest, he committed crimes against humanity, and war crimes against the conquered people by mutilating right breasts of women and right hands of men at Anole. Hence, Menelik conducted the first type of genocidal war of total extermination or nearly total extermination of Oromo people. Ironically, today the Abyssinians deny the genocidal extermination committed by Emperor Menelik against the Oromo people and the reduction of the Oromo population by half, the cutoff right breasts of women and right hands of men at Anole. Instead, Menelik II has become a towering figure of history for the successive Abyssinian generations for which they have been glorifying and idolizing him ever since as courageous and hero and erected the monument for him in the center of Finfinnee on the grave of Oromo that he annihilated. His actions are neither actions of courage nor heroism. For the Oromo people, Menelik remains as a villain and genocidist, the symbol of death and destruction. And the crime he committed has been engraved deep in the Oromo collective memory and will always be remembered by this generation and the future successive generations.
Following Menelik, the next genocide was committed in the 20thcentury by Emperor Haile Selassie of the Ethiopian empire. It is important to recognize that the crime of genocide is not only limited to mass killing. His regime committed a different type of genocide. It was crimes of structural genocide. This means, his regime systematically and deliberately committed genocide on the Oromo people’s political and social institutions, history, identity, culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence-loss of land and resources and replaced all by Abyssinian settler colonialism’s socio-political and economic structures.
Today, in the 21stcentury, the TPLF has been committing genocide of the third type. It has been following its plan of Oromo extermination blueprint as it stated in HIZBAAWI ADERA. That is, selecting the section of the Oromo population- nationalists, youths, scholars, elites, and the businessmen and women for the total and immediate physical annihilation as a people and as a member of the nation. To implement this, the TPLF fascist regime has already begun accelerating the pace, speed, scale, and intensity of genocidal war of total annihilation of the Oromo people. Since 1991, it has been incarcerating, torturing, maiming, killing, terrorizing, and destroying our people with new methods of cruelty, and savagery unparalleled in the history of Ethiopian empire. It has intensified the killings of men, women and children and mothers with infants across Oromiyaa. This is the TPLF’s centrally planned and systematically organized genocide against the Oromo people.
The sad thing is, the global community remains indifferent to this horrific genocidal destruction of human life, and that the UN, EU, and AU turn deaf ears, chosen to evade the issue, and look away. The truth is throughout, UN, EU, and AU have never intervened while state commits genocide. The reason is that all have the political and ideological commitment to the protection of the sovereignty of the states, and from this follows, non-intervention in internal affairs of member states. To this effect, here the UN charter states:”All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” Furthermore, the African Union (AU) Charter also states:“Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each State and for its inalienable right to independent existence.” From these Charters, one can learn that first and foremost UN, AU, and EU are organizations of states, not of nations. Their Charters states that each state has sovereignty. Here sovereignty refers to the ultimate power of a state to make and enforce the law within its territory without any external control or interference. And the UN, EU, and AU defend this sovereignty right. Because of this sovereign right, they are to sit by and watch as a member state commits genocide against the people under its own rule. The sad thing is, the sovereignty right has become a license to kill; it gives a right for fascist states to commit genocide. Hence, both international and regional organizations favor the state over the nations. For this, the global community remains silent and indifferent as the TPLF commits the genocidal massacre against the Oromo people and other peoples in Ethiopia. The fact is the twenty-seven year of UN, AU, EU, and African states silence, encouraged the TPLF to continue committing genocide against the peoples in Ethiopia. Hence, it is unrealistic and unreasonable for the Oromo people and nationalists to expect any help from the world community in this fight against the Tigrayan regime of genocidal murderer TPLF. If we allow the TPLF to continue its killing of the Oromo at the present pace, speed, and intensity, the Oromo people are at an imminent extermination danger to be reduced a minority. It is incumbent upon all of us to immediately unite as one and use our human and material capital in fighting to dismantle this mortal enemy of our people. History will condemn us and will never absolve us if we fail to unite today to defend our people and country. It will be a moral and political failure not to unite to fight the enemy.
As it is shown in preceding paragraphs, there is no doubt that by any standard of definition, the TPLF’s killing of the Oromo fits the definition of genocide. Genocide is a willful and deliberate act designed to exterminate a group or part of a group. It is a crime against a collectivity, taking the form of massive slaughter, and carrying out with explicit intent to destroy the selected target group completely or partially. Simply put, genocide is a denial of the right of existence of a target group. Oromo are the targeted people. The TPLF has targeted the Oromo nation for its physical extermination. As it is shown in the above paragraphs, genocide has been used throughout history as a mechanism to reduce the majority to a minority. Specifically, it was widely used by the European settler colonizers in South America, North America, New Zealand, and Australia against the majority native populations. The TPLF has adopted this European method as a model for the indiscriminate and systematic extermination of the Oromo people to reduce them to a minority and to takeover Oromiyaa, its economy and resources. And it has been applying this model against the Oromo people since 1991 to date. It targeted Oromo people for their collective identity. That is, for being Oromo.
So now, what is to be done?
Now, the question is as to what is to be done to protect and defend our people and country from physical extermination. I believe what is to be done is simple. It is to be organized, united, armed and fight with all available means at our deposal. This is the only option we have as a people. We can do this today. It is time to act quickly and decisively. It is important not to put off what we can do today until tomorrow. In unity, we rise but, in a division, we fall. History has shown time and again, the rise and fall of nations. The rise or fall of any nation has a direct correlation to the condition of the minds, hearts, and souls and body politics of the nation’s people. A people that have unity in their minds, hearts, and souls unite and those who do not divide. That is, in division nation falls; in unity, nation rises. For this, unity must be in the minds, hearts, and souls of members of Oromo political organizations. This unity must be based on principle and objective of the struggle to be achieved. This objective is the right of Oromo nation to self-determination. The truth is the Oromo struggle is to realize political self-determination. It is exactly for this notion of self-determination, hundreds of thousands of Oromo had fought and still fighting at the costs of their lives. So, for over a century to-date millions had fought and sacrificed their precious lives for this right to self-determination.
Needless to say, today the Oromo mass resistance has driven the enemy-the genocidal murderer TPLF regime into a deep and permanent political crisis from which it cannot recover itself. Now, to defeat and permanently remove it so as to bring the struggle to its final conclusion, the struggle demands strong organization, centralized leadership, and powerful fighting armed force. This requires, the Oromo political organizations to end their factionalism and fragmentations. It is time for unity. At this junction of our struggle, we have only one choice to fight. This is the only viable option. In this fight, nonviolence cannot win a victory over a mortal enemy whose interests are inherently and irreconcilably antagonistic to freedom, democracy, justice, liberty, liberation, and dignity of the peoples. To tell the people not to use force against the fascist TPLF regime that has been committing genocide is tantamount to give it the opportunity to buy time to regroup and so to extend the misery over the Oromo people. Force has to be the major arsenal of struggle. In other words, the main pillar of struggle against the fascist TPLF war of genocide is the necessity to resort to force. In a state founded on a violent force, our political aim cannot be the nonviolent form of struggle. We must draw the right battle lines- force/armed struggle, mass political struggle, diplomatic campaign, and economic actions. It is time for us all to act in unity against the TPLF fascist regime that has brought so much suffering and death to millions committing genocide and continuing drowning millions in blood. Here, we have no choice but to fight back by all available means within our power in defense of our people and our country against the mortal enemy of our people, the TPLF and for the inherent and inalienable right to self-determination, justice, freedom, liberty, democracy, and dignity.
Oromiyaa shall be free!